No French Cuffs

Plaid flannel shirts
of my Northwoods youth
smelled of
beer and pine cones
boat motor gasoline and
fresh caught sunfish
wood smoke
and filtered Winstons

when I was a kid the
intertwined, pungent
aromas of cervelat salami
plumbers’ grease, house paint
mingled freely, locked
in square-patterned fibers,
always-rolled-up sleeves

no amount of
Fels-Naptha soap
could smother those
godly auras

When I was a kid
plaid flannel shirts smelled
wonderfully worn by heroes –
old men with accents and dialects
eye-winks and odd habits
mentors who I know understood,
that I emulated
aspired to one day be like

Plaid flannel shirts
hang now in my closet;
freshly washed, hanging neatly –
as they never
would or could on the
hero-men I knew

My plaid flannel shirts
hang quietly, neatly,
sedately
rarely worn, quietly lived-in
yet they, too
smell of wood smoke
and pine trees
beer, salami, pine

wood box colby cheese and
chainsaw exhaust,
bait minnows and Old Spice
whenever I open
my closet

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2018
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Breezes

summer comes to a close
autumnal breezes waft
rustling memories of those
days when the close of summer
had more definitive endings

sun-drenched days of youthful
frolic, innocent play, done

swimming, playing with frogs in
holes dug on sandy beaches at
grandparent’s homes; ‘the lake’
summer Xanadus of childhood
one year, scenic backdrops for
advancing adolescence the next

the summer dented pails,
bent shovels lay unused in
boathouse corner; replaced with
initials inside a heart, drawn
artfully at dusk in beach sand with
carefully chosen stick, just to be
erased by evening’s gentle waves

Previous summers we traveled
in packs along endless lakeshore
some ‘ooing’ over discovered shells
all ‘eewing!’ over dead, bloated fish
skipping rocks to show machismo

But our duo walks became more
intimate strolls through the woods
privacy trumping pinecone collection,
coy separation from the collective
group not as subtle as we hoped

Each summer indelible as the
next; parts of many years blending
seamlessly together, a montage of
youthful Julys, childhood vacations

But the starkness of one summer
that is viewed not with the gauziness
of looking back fondly, but with clarity
of time, place, purpose…firsts.

One brilliant, Kodacolor snapshot
that never made it into any scrapbook
yet still remains the clearest picture

especially when summer ends
and the breezes of fall swirl

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2017
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

You.

Yes, you of
posted pictorials
stonecoldironydystopian bon mots
your naiveté trumps
your angst

ironically
you are playing
solitaire

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2016
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

First dance

A ma-and-pa resort, small lake
north woods of Minnesota
seeburgsmall office behind
quaint bar, twelve small cabins
dozen aluminum rowboats to use;
minnows, worms, leeches for sale
amenities, ala Angler’s Edge

Joe & Gloria’s place

The bar a hangout for township locals
grandpa Ivar and I frequented the nicked,
cigarette-burn speckled
polished, yellow-varnished bar for a
North Star beer, ice cold Nesbitt’s Orange
I enjoyed from my end-of-bar spot

A summer semi-regular.

Perched atop two upside-down
wooden Coca-Cola crates
stacked together, laid across two
shiny red-vinyl top, chrome-rimmed
swivel-seat bar stools
bringing me to proper sitting.
sipping height

until the summer my height
matched my station withDino45
always jovial Joe, ever kindly
large-laughing Gloria

Joe would slip me dimes
to play his disc-bowling machine
feed his 45-laden Seeburg jukebox
always selections G5, G6
back-to-back Dean Martin starting
with the bass-thump of Houston…

My musical choices amused Joe

his dimes, gratis – except on Fridays
when I earned my keep
prepping Angler’s Edge worn,
maple dance floor
for the evening’s band
paid in advance, I would crank Dean;
Little Ole Wine Drinker Me
grab the yellow-and-black shaker can
liberally sprinkle the dance wax
the floor all mine as I shuffled
to Dino crooning

“…I’m prayin’ for rain, in Califorrrrrnia….”maple1b

spontaneously choreographing
my personal pre-teen two-step
grinding the wax in
elevating the floor to polka, waltz
schottische, western swing perfection
finishing as Dino was faded off
…little ole wine drinker, me…I say…
with a show-stopping slide
ending near the cramped bandstand

between wax-infused Levi knees
tongue-in-groove hardwood boards
meeting no resistance
the wax, the music, the memories
rich patina of my youth

– Mark L. Lucker
© 2016
http://lrd.to/sxh9jntSbd

Changing of the Guardians

Changing diapersbabywipesetc
we once foolishly hoped
were a passing fad

too soon wistfully outgrew
all-star wrestling bouts
on sopping pads

consoled ourselves with
years of wiping runny noses
becoming laser-precise,
discreetly or not

plucking
odd clumps from noses,
Cheerios from ears via
pointer-finger-and-thumb
industrial tweezers

overcame
defiance deftly utilizingusedkleenex2
Kleenex-and-spittum
wash cloths to rub
off or deeper in
crusted, dried
residues of often
unknown origin
and composition
frequently enough
for EPA containment
certification

Hazmat suits be damned.

Balled-up tissues,09 14 12a
sanitary wipes, pilfered
restaurant napkins
hand-me-down
cloth diapers,
parental shirt sleeves
tools of our lofty craft

Formerly resistant
now pliant,steady
hands carry QTip-
villager’s-torch

generational transference
fondly messy duties
resistant-to-disinfectant
memories will
render a someday
fragrant nostalgia

Mark Lucker

Christmas, remembered

There remains, for me, a magic to Christmas EveChristmas 1959 2
a carryover from youth, augmented with the new
memories being created, added to the repertoire

Thou the idyllic Mel Torme and Norman Rockwell
versions of iconic song and picture were only loving
adornments to the Christmas Eves I remembernat-king-cole-the-christmas-song-merry-christmas-to-you-1956
their annual, wistful reappearances are welcome

The night before Christmas was always a boisterous
holiday evening at my aunt an uncle’s suburban space,
not physically but atmospherically distant from
the more compact city neighborhood I knew

The night before Christmas, all through their house,Christmas 1959
laughter, excitement – my yearly chocolate Chrismouse

Christmas Eve meant food starting with a coffee table
full of Norwegian sardines, pickled herring, goat cheese;
more all-American and cheddar cheese and hard salami
all laid out on shiny plates – one of just Ritz crackers,ritzcrackers
on which I artfully packed all of my pre-meal delicacies

It was all augmented liberally with background Christmas
music from an old console stereo…one 33-and-third black
vinyl album at a time, dropping to the turntable until the
stack was spent, needed flipping to assorted side twos

The night before Christmas dinner meant boiled codfishtorsk2
befitting my mother’s family’s Norwegian heritage
and served with boiled potatoes and flatbread, all
slathered by ample pitchers of melted butter

Christmas Eve always ended with me awakening as IChristmas 1961
was being carried to bed, having fallen soundly asleep
somewhere between the family revelry and home

Christmas morning found me awaking before my
parents, before Gramps had arrived for the day;
alone but never lonely, I would be alone to sit andRockwell2
ponder our modestly decorated tree, packages strewn
beneath it like so many colorfully dropped pinecones

Never did I see mommy kissing Santa Claus

Growing up on the top floor of a tidy duplex, I had no
stairs to creep down except to go outside
there was no railing spindles between which to peekChristmas 1968
though mom and dad made occasional use of the
plastic, hung-on-the-living-room-arch mistletoe

Never did we rock around our tree, an always live,
dad-preferred (its-needles-didn’t-drop!) Scotch pine
though when Gramps arrived we could always manage
a quick, Norwegian jig or two to some Christmas songtree
or another playing on the transistor radio in the corner

We had no fireplace chimney by which to hang stockings
though a small nail in the wooden archway between our
living and dining room did the trick, diminished none of
morning’s excitement of a stuffed stocking, hanging

We had no fire on which to roast chestnuts or standnormanrockwellchristmastrio
before singing carols, though my father would sporadically
duet with Nat King Cole on the radio, as together they
extolled the virtues of a Christmas foreign to us;
an archetype we did quite nicely without

I remember youthful Christmases for what they were;NatKingColealbum
fun, joyful, memorable though not all that lyrical.

“Although it’s been said, many times, many ways…
Merry Christmas to you.” And to me.

Mark Lucker

Art of Flying

Flights of fancy
via wings of balsa
when an extra nickel
added a propeller

we took wing
on wind-looping
imagination

gliding sometimes
to gentle landings
more often crashing
with aplomb-tinged
disappointment
when repairs were
beyond the pale

Images silently
soaring, frozen in
in time and flight
still life, real life
in balsa and
backyard

Mark Lucker

Manly

At eight-years old
machismo has a
very different feel

‘Don’t cry like a baby,’
my son would admonish
his second-grade peers
‘…cry like a man!’

As he is now sixteen
I wonder…would he
challenge them at all?

Redux

Shoes; a pair fit in my hand

Shoes sometimes bronzed
for museum-reverence, dusty
display on living room mantle

Unfathomable they once
thundered across hardwood
floors in a symphonic cacophony
of thumping, giggles, pure joy.

Little shoes; toy-like.

Worn soles, tattered seams,
frayed laces a dingy gray

Just a pair of shoes. Hers.

Two little shoes in a box
reminding me of a time when
questions asked were serious,
mock-profound, the answers
given in return simple

not vice versa

She walked in those shoes
a long time ago, and now will
have the chance to walk in mine
and someday, not so many years
ahead, she will have a pair of
little shoes, sitting in a box
and will wax on the unfathomable
truth that her own son once was
small enough to wear them

Shoes. A pair fit in my hand…

Mine

Beatles songs,
baseball cards
the aroma of a
fresh-mowed lawn,
pungent sweetness
of burning leaves

lake-bottom mud
spurting through
summer toes

Gelatinous frogs.

Hot beach sand
cool July evenings
and the first
non-parental hand
ever held

A specific summer.

Tactile youth. You.